Learning about Change: Opening Heathrow Terminal 5

I was talking to a colleague recently about the key moments in my career that had presented significant learning in change management. One example that came up was from the opening of Heathrow Terminal 5 in March 2008.

So, what did Terminal 5’s opening teach me about successful change? 

Firstly, I learned to break change into manageable chunks and avoid a “big bang” approach. This minimises the amount of change on day one.  When the most recent Terminal at Heathrow “The Queens Terminal (T2)” was opened, we applied these lessons to great success. 

Second, when opening new facilities, the temptation is to use this as a catalyst for also changing processes, driving out inefficient practices and restructuring teams and jobs.  Whilst this is crucial, allowing businesses to remain efficient and effective, these changes should not be part of day one.  Either implement the changes before the new facility opens or wait until the teething issues have been ironed out and then bring in the next phase of optimisation. Too many change programmes fail because they try to do too much in one go.

Finally, it is essential to actively involve those impacted by the change early.  Getting their input and ideas so they can influence the final solution is crucial. After all, after the constructions teams have left the facility it will be being run by the operational teams for many years to come.

InsightsSue Bampton